L’indifférence

René Robert, the Swiss photographer who died of indifference on a Paris street

The other night a random ‘fait divers’ (news item) caught my eye. An 84-year-old man had collapsed on a busy street in Paris and died before anyone noticed. Of hypothermia. Nine hours later.

The fact that this man happened to be a well-known Swiss photographer doesn’t matter. He was Monsieur Tout-le-monde, Mr. Nobody, out for a walk on a winter’s evening. What matters is the fact that nobody stopped to help him, that for hours people walked by his body stretched out on the pavement. It’s an area with a lot of people, many of them homeless. The irony of the story is that it was one of these humble souls, a homeless man, who eventually called for help at 6:30 the following morning. But when the emergency vehicle came it was too late.

René Robert was born in Fribourg, one of the French-speaking cantons in Switzerland. He was a photographer known for his pictures of flamenco dancers, a passion that had come to him early in life. He lived in Paris and had long frequented its bars and venues where he could quietly capture the moments of raw emotion that define the art of flamenco.

René Robert achieved a certain celebrity for his work. He published several books and his photographs were shown in galleries around Europe. But he was said to have remained humble, quiet, someone who appreciated working in the shadows rather than being in the spotlight himself.

The reason Robert’s death made headlines was because of its reprehensible moral nature. The French are sensitive to ‘l’indifférence’; it is not a characteristic that defines us* as a people. Indifference is among the most-detested modern ‘maux’ (evils, wrongs) of society, that we can pass by human suffering on the street and look the other way.

It came to my attention because a journalist friend of the photographer, Michel Mompontet, talked about it. Did he trip? Was it a dizzy spell? he asked. And most importantly: Who among us would have stopped? Is it conceivable that I myself would have walked by?

The fact that this man was Swiss is also poignant to me. I have a soft spot for strangers in strange lands. And it seems the world we live in has become a strange place indeed.

RIP Monsieur Robert.

(*I have officially been away from my adopted country long enough now to identify as French.)

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

vib-awardThe king of hugs and one of my favorite fellow bloggers, Lord David Prosser, nominated me for this award. I have no award-free principles, so I am delighted to accept the honor.

As with many awards this one has a few “rules”. As a rule, I dislike rules and try to break them wherever possible. However, I also believe you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth (whatever that means!). So, here goes…

First, the rules:

  • Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
  • List the rules and display the award.
  • Share seven facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 other blogs you enjoy, then comment on their posts to let them know that you have nominated them.

Let me begin by thanking David, who keeps us all in merriment on Sunday mornings with his weekly epistles of daily life on The Barsetshire Diaries, along with those of a rather fishy cast of characters including his pal, Mike, and Big Al, the leader of the tank. (Apologies to Mike, I couldn’t resist!)

Now, 7 fascinating facts about moi:

1) Although I live in France, I hate to travel and never bothered to learn any foreign languages before meeting my husband. Who, you guessed it, is French!

2) I eat breakfast in bed. Every. Single. Day. (Except when we’re traveling, which is probably why I hate it!)

3) We have two grown children, who shall remain nameless on this blog, and two substitute children: our Frenchies, Higgins and Humphrey. Oh, and two vile lodgers who think they own the joint: the cats, Bianca and Leo.

4) I am a professional writer. Shh! Don’t tell my clients, they pay me to do what I do for free here.

5) In another life, I used to sing.

6) Unrelated fact: I am deaf in one ear.

7) I curse like a sailor and spit like a man. In two languages!

So, now to the real business. Here are 15 blogs that I follow with pleasure and can recommend you do the same.

A Crooked Mile: Another blogger who shares sometimes mixed feelings about France.

Au Pair Gal: I am very much enjoying this new blog chronicling life as an Au Pair.

As Told by Dana: Great stories from the trenches of life in France.

A Year in Perigord: A Francophile with a very British sense of humor.

Food, Photography and France: A food photographer who can make anything look magical.

Multifarious Meanderings: A funny take on just about anything.

Osyth: A funny and inspired writer who lives in the remote region of Cantal

Suzanne and Pierre in Paris: A bilingual photo blog documenting this couple’s travels (unfortunately ending soon!)

Forty c’est Fantastique: Souvenirs of past and future trips to France.

Long View Hill: One woman’s challenges in living a balanced life.

Big Body Beautiful: An inspirational blog about finding beauty in all body sizes.

Cogito Ergo Mom: Thoughts on parenting, emphasis on the thoughts.

Colin Bissett: Travel, architecture and more from an adopted Aussie.

The Cheergerm and the Silly Yak: I enjoy reading this blog almost as much as drooling over the gluten-free recipes!

Wandering Cows: Bits and bobs from the travels of wandering Aussies.

Happy reading and bonne semaine!